23 April 1919
|Died||29 April 2021 (aged 102)|
|Other names||Anne Douglas|
(m. 1954; died 2020)
|Awards||Jefferson Award (2003)|
Anne Buydens or Anne Douglas (born Hannelore Marx; 23 April 1919 – 29 April 2021) was a German-born American philanthropist and film producer. She was the wife of actor Kirk Douglas from 1954 until his death in 2020. She received a Jefferson Award for Public Service in 2003.
Born Hannelore Marx in Hanover, Hanover, Prussia, Germany, on 23 April 1919, she was the daughter of a textile merchant who imported silk for making parachutes; her mother was a socialite. After her parents were divorced, she was sent to a boarding school in Switzerland, where she learned English, French, and Italian. She later studied in Brussels but fled the bombed city for Paris during World War II. As her German identity was a problem, she became a Belgian citizen by marrying a Belgian, Albert Buydens.
When the Nazis in Paris insisted that films be shown with German subtitles, her language skills allowed her to find a job adding subtitles for a French film distributor. In 1948, she was hired to produce an NBC program, Paris Cavalcade of Fashion. She also worked as a location scout on the 1952 production of Moulin Rouge for John Huston. From 1953, she scheduled celebrity parties at the Cannes Film Festival.
When Buydens met Kirk Douglas in Paris in 1953, he was divorced from his first wife, Diana Dill, with whom he had two sons, Michael and Joel. They worked on the film Act of Love, directed by Anatole Litvak, he as an actor and she as a publicist. He offered her a job as his publicist, which she first refused, but eventually accepted, described by him later: "She finally agreed to work with me on a trial basis, making it clear our relationship would be strictly business".
Buydens and Douglas married in Las Vegas on 29 May 1954. The couple had two sons, Peter (born 1955) and Eric (1958–2004), who both went into the film business. Douglas credits Buydens for saving his life in 1958 when she had insisted that he not travel via private plane with director Mike Todd; the plane crashed the next day, killing all four people aboard.
In 2017, they co-wrote a memoir, Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter, and a Lifetime in Hollywood, including letters they had exchanged. She and her husband both became centenarians; he died on 5 February 2020.
In a statement released by the family, her stepson Michael Douglas paid her tribute:
Anne was more than a stepmother, and never "wicked." She brought out the best in all of us, especially our father. Dad would never have had the career he did without Anne's support and partnership.
One of Buydens' first forays into philanthropy came on the heels of recovering from breast cancer: With six fellow survivors, Buydens established the "Research for Women's Cancers" charity, which raised millions of dollars to help finance a research facility at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
The two started the Douglas Foundation in 1964, which has since donated roughly 118 million USD to institutions such as the Children's Hospital Los Angeles and the Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF). They were also behind the establishment of Harry's Haven, an Alzheimer's disease unit named after Douglas's father at the MPTF Home in Woodland Hills.
The couple was known for their efforts to rebuild playgrounds in the Los Angeles Unified School District, attending opening ceremonies in person. In recognition of her compassion toward homeless women, the Anne Douglas Center for Women was named after her.
In recognition of her philanthropic deeds as a private citizen, Buydens received a Jefferson Award for Public Service in 2003. Buydens and Douglas are the only married couple to have each received an individual Jefferson Award; Douglas was awarded in 1983.
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